A Short History of North American Falconry

Earliest Accounts of Falconry in North America

Continental United States:


1492: During the Spanish Conquest beginning in, falconry is mentioned by one of Hernan Cortez’s Captains early in their stay in the Valley of Mexico. It was a common pastime with the nobles during the conquest of the Valley of Mexico, to leave their processions and fly. More than one Aztec conquest was marred because the nobles were hunting.


Hernan Cortes

1619: DeBry engraving shows a falconry hunt with Captain John Smith.

1622: Thomas Morton, an attorney in Virginia, keenly observed birds of prey in the colony and later wrote: “….at my first practice to take a Lannaret, which I reclaimed, trained, and made fly in a fortnight, the same being a passenger at Michuelmas.” This “Lannaret” was a tundra peregrine tierce.




MortonThomas Morton

1650’s: Jan Baptist “sent to Holland for his falcon and flew her at quarry in the Hudson Valley where she was ‘king’ of the New Neatherlands.”

1746: The first tangible evidence that hawking may have been practiced is in the wording of an unpublished deed signed by lieutenant governor William Gooch of Virginia and conveys all rights to “Hunting, Hawking, and Fishing”.





1609-1617: Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala was a Quechua nobleman known for chronicling and denouncing the ill treatment of the natives of the Andes by the Spanish after their conquest. In his texts, Ayala wrote: “When not engaged in warfare, many soldiers of noble blood avoided idleness by trading for Indian textiles….since their Llamas moved slowly, they would provide themselves a pair of hawks, some retrievers….so that they could separate from their herds and hunt”. 

Growth of Falconry in the Twentieth Century


  • America: The American North Falconer’s Association is formed by Robert “Doc” Stabler, Al Nye, Frank and John Craighead, and Halter Cunningham
  • Mexico: Association Mexicana de Cetreria is formed with the help of Col. R.L. Meredith and others. The association disappeared without a trace.


  • Canada: John Campbell emigrated from Scotland to Alberta where he became a successful early game hawker.
  • British Columbia: Frank Bebee recorded successful falconry
  • Idaho: Morlan Nelson began hawking with golden eagles and prairie falcons.
  • California: Tom Cade was finishing his graduate studies and began game hawking.


After the founding of the North American Falconer’s Association, true game hawking literally exploded across the continent. By then the ubiquitous red tail hawk became a mainstay for rabbit hawkers and a decade later the Harris Hawk was “discovered”. Harris Hawks are now the species of choice for the largest percentage of falconers in North America and Europe.


Falconry becomes the largest submission to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. Falconry was placed on the List of Intangible Human Heritages. This was the culmination of over 6 years work by 11 nations, led by the authorities in the United Arab Emirates and including Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Korea, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Mongolia, Morocco and Spain. International World Falconry Day is instituted on November 16, 2010.

North American Contributions to Modern Day Falconry

  • Radio Telemetry
  • Hood craftsmanship including the use of adhesives on seams, Gortex braces, and the use of a contoured beak opening that allows casting versus a square opening.
  • Introduced the use of relatively heavy-duty ball bearing stainless steel swivels.
  • Contributed the variation of metal in bells rivaling fine German bells.
  • Most of the significant raptor biologists began their careers as falconers.
  • The primary contributors to the recovery of the Peregrine Falcon. The successful recovery is often times referred to as “the greatest conservation biology success story of the Twentieth Century”.
  • Developed Enheptin as a cure for frounce.